Despite lack of yards, Michigan's Fitz Toussaint insists he's improving week by week
ANN ARBOR -- After the Michigan football team concluded spring practice in April, junior running back Fitz Toussaint was asked what his goal for the 2012 season was.
Coming off his first 1,000-yard season, Toussaint didn't blink an eye before responding.
He wanted 1,600 yards ... at least.
"I have to come out there and act like I want to be the best running back in the country, and that's what I'm going to do," Toussaint said at the time. "That's my goal."
Midway through his junior season -- barring a handful of miracles -- it's safe to say Toussaint won't come anywhere near his numerical goal.
After an offseason arrest derailed his summer, turned his fall camp into one giant distraction and cost him a game due to suspension, Toussaint -- on paper -- has gone from a sleeper Heisman Trophy candidate to a player who is fighting daily to keep his job.
Toussaint has 283 yards in six appearances -- 47.2 yards per game. Currently, he's on a 12-game pace for just 519 yards, which just about half the amount of yards he rushed for as a sophomore (1,041).
But through it all, Toussaint remains upbeat.
"I feel like I'm running pretty good, getting better week by week," he said Tuesday. "The offensive line's getting better week by week, and that's the key.
"I'm just improving every week, just doing what I have to do, just playing my role. I'm just going out there doing what I have to do."
Against Michigan State on Saturday, Toussaint ripped off his most impressive run of the season -- a 38-yarder to set up an eventual field goal, giving Michigan a glimpse of the downhill, cutting running back it had last season.
The rest of Toussaint's day against the Spartans, though? Nine carries for 14 yards.
Asked earlier this week if he was starting to get concerned about Toussaint's growing lack of production, Michigan coach Brady Hoke shot the notion down with a quick "no."
Part of that reason could be based on Toussaint's attitude. He's refused to show any outward frustration this season, and he insists his legal troubles -- which concluded Tuesday with a probation sentence -- never deterred his focus once the season began.
In his final five regular-season games last season, Toussaint rushed for 678 yards -- a point that hasn't gone lost on him.
He won't come anywhere near his 1,600-yard goal this season, and he might continue to split carries with sophomore Thomas Rawls.
But Toussaint's approach remains the same -- he's attacking every day like he wants to be the best running back in America.
"I'm a hard worker," he said. "I'm going to continue to work hard, and things will open up.
"It's always hard to find a rhythm, but you'll get it eventually."
Michigan certainly hopes so.